[Bellflower: It means ‘true beauty’. Isn’t it pretty?]
Chae Nayun let out a deep sigh. Bitterness rose up from the bottom of her heart.
She didn’t think it suited her, an empty shell who lost everything.
[Yes, it’s pretty.]
Chae Nayun wanted to end the conversation.
[Bellfower: I want my child to be beautiful just the way she is.]
But Bellflower’s messages continued.
[Bellflower: She might fall and get hurt, but I want her to overcome everything in the end.]
Just looking at the messages stung Chae Nayun’s heart, but she couldn’t find it in herself to look away. She pushed her hair back and grumbled.
[How is that beautiful? That’s just not knowing when to give up.]
[Bellflower: You’re right. To me, true beauty isn’t weak or feeble but strong and tenacious.]
At that moment, Chae Nayun’s fingers paused.
[Bellflower: Being hurt, regretting, and grieving but also accepting that pain and sadness as a part of her.]
[Bellflower: Accepting herself and standing up on her two feet as a person…]
Her mother’s voice, the same one she remembered from years past, seemed to flow into her ears through the messages.
[Bellflower: That’s what Nayun means to me.]
“…I’m heading out.”
Shin Jonghak read the mood and took a leave. Chae Nayun wiped the tears glistening around here eyes and typed.
[I’ll remember that.]
She knew she was in a fake world, but she decided to believe anyways. She decided to remember the meaning of her name and hold onto it.
Of course, that didn’t mean her outlook on life would change overnight. Her memories of Kim Hajin, Chae Jinyoon’s death, Chae Joochul’s sins… it was hard to accept all of them. She would likely repeat her doubts and justifications.
But she would also repeatedly think about the meaning of the name she learned today. And eventually, one day, before her death, it might truly change.
[I have something to attend to. Thank you.]
[Bellflower: Ah, okay. Let’s talk later. ^^]
Chae Nayun ended the conversation and turned off her computer.
Yoo Yeonha then appeared at the perfect timing.
“You’re done chatting?”
Chae Nayun got up with a short reply. Yoo Yeonha was startled when she saw Chae Nayun’s face and then smiled brightly.
“Looks like you received a good piece of advice.”
“Huh? Ah, no, it’s nothing like that.”
Chae Nayun shook her head and went out to the living room with Yoo Yeonha. Her comrades were gathered inside the large penthouse living room surrounded by walls of glass.
“Why can’t we logout? You lied to us, didn’t you?!”
Yun Seung-Ah was complaining to Kaita, while Kim Suho greeted Chae Nayun with a smile.
“Would I be here if I was lying? Just wait ten days…”
Walking past the arguing Kaita and Yun Seung-Ah, Chae Nayun sat down on the couch. A cool breeze blew in from the open window, gently caressing her hair.
Feeling the peaceful atmosphere, Chae Nayun stared at her comrades. Then, she slowly opened her mouth.
Everyone’s eyes turned to Chae Nayun.
Chae Nayun let out a small breath, as if in thought, then finally smiled beautifully, like a huge burden had been lifted off her shoulders.
“I’m going to go meet Mom and Oppa.”
[D-6 Until Logout]
Cheok Jungyeong went to work with Shag and Mohawk first thing in the morning. He left for the mountains, knowing that the mountains of the 2000s were full of hidden experts.
Repeatedly fighting strong opponents. Cheok Jungyeong was enjoying a happy daily life, and it was Shag and Mohawk’s duty to bare witness to his tales of battle.
On the other hand, I selected a more peaceful lifestyle.
“This is the flower you like?”
Byul nodded from next to me. In her hand were two yellow flowers. I checked the name of the flower with Observation and Reading.
“…?” But Byul only tilted her head. From the looks of it, she didn’t know the name of the flower either.
“That’s the name of this flower. If you didn’t know before, now you do.”
I stretched and got up. I played ball with her for an hour, read her a fairy tale for an hour, and went flower-hunting for an hour. It was time to go eat.
“Let’s go get dinner now.”
Byul nodded while keeping a three-step distance between us. Although she was just as expressionless as before, I could tell from the four-days I spent with her that this was her reaction when she was extremely happy. The way the corner of her mouth twitched a bit was an easy sign.
“Alright, follow me.”
Byul nodded silently and chased after me like a duckling following her mother.
On a side note, I purchased this orphanage four days ago to win over Byul’s heart. Kaita gave me the money for it. I didn’t know how he made his money, but he was a mogul in this world.
Of course, I had to lie to Byul that the reason her parents suddenly disappeared was because they abandoned her, but Byul didn’t express any shock or sorrow. She acted normal even though she must be hurt on the inside.
“…Oh right, what’s your favorite meal out of all the ones I’ve made so far?”
I asked what she liked as we walked together. This virtual world was created with an extreme synergy between Yoo Jinhyuk’s Gift and Stigma. Since Stigma’s power materialized the world of the past with the capsule and USB as its mediums, the current Boss should have the same taste in food as the young Boss.
But Byul didn’t say anything.
“Pasta? Pork belly?”
She didn’t answer no matter how many times I asked.
“Chicken? Pizza? Candy? Dumplings?”
However, she stopped when she heard the words ‘dumplings’.
She looked up at me silently. Looking at her sparkling eyes, I smiled.
Thinking about it now, I never made Boss dumplings.
“Perfect, let’s go with dumplings.”
Byul nodded and even walked ahead of me excitedly. The kid who always followed me from a few-step distance was now skipping over to the kitchen.
I laughed and chased after Byul.
[D-2 Until Logout]
Chae Nayun arrived at a hanok, a traditional Korean house, on the outskirts of Seoul. It was the same house she lived in since she was little. She walked to the front gate with delight.
[Chae Family Hanok]
The nameplate written in Chinese characters looked slightly less worn down than the one she remembered. With a grin, she stood in front of the gate.
At that moment, a voice flowed into her ears.
—Hey, don’t let yourself be found out and just run. They’ll capture you and take you away if you act suspicious. You know the time they go for a stroll, so aim for that.
It was Kaita’s voice.
Chae Nayun walked away from the hanok and headed to the nearby trail. Grass, flowers, a mountain, and a stream. The trail was full of natural beauty.
Chae Nayun sat down at a nearby bench. She knew the exact path her mother would take in her daily stroll through the trail.
She took a deep breath and felt the spiritual energy of her surroundings.
After about 20 minutes of waiting, Kaita’s voice rang out.
—She’s out. Chae Jinyoon’s with her.
Chae Nayun immediately tensed up with nervousness. About three minutes later, a woman and a young boy appeared in the trail hand-in-hand.
Chae Nayun shot up and reiterated the sentence she prepared beforehand.
“Oh, isn’t it Bellflower-nim? Wow, what a coincidence, I also come here often….”
She practiced the line again, trying to make herself sound and look as natural as possible.
This is it.
Don’t be scared.
Don’t be afraid.
These are the people who became scars in your heart because you loved them so much.
Walk towards them slowly.
With courage, Chae Nayun stepped forward.
[15 Minutes Before Logout]
The sky was dark. I was sitting on a chair, staring at Byul who was sleeping on the bed. She had been eating nothing but dumplings for the past week and was starting to smell like one too.
“…What a shame.”
I stayed with Byul for a week. Although Cheok Jungyeong and Kaita dropped by to see her face, Byul spent most of her time with me.
But a week was too short, and she never once showed me her smile.
[There are 10 minutes remaining until logout. The virtual reality with shut down in 10 minutes.]
That’s the one thing I regretted, but my time here wasn’t meaningless. After all, I got to learn Boss’s past and figure out what food she liked.
That was enough.
I smiled and placed my hand on Byul’s forehead. It wasn’t cold but warm.
[7 minutes until logout…]
I turned off the system alert for a moment. Then, for the remaining time, I stared at Byul.
1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes… time flowed without stopping.
4 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes… I settled the bitterness in the corner of my heart.
Then, in the final minute…
“…See you tomorrow.”
I said my farewell.
[The virtual reality will now stop.]
[Forceful logout will now commence.]
The capsule opened with a hum, and I immediately looked at the clock.
About three hours had passed in the real world.
It was a truly mysterious experience. Some spent 3 or 4 years in the virtual world but only 3 hours had passed in the real world.
In any case, I threw off the groggy feeling in my heart and came out to the hallway of the capsule room.
Woong— Woong— Woong—
I could hear other capsules opening simultaneously. I hastened my feet and stood at the exit of Capsule de Mars.
“You’re leaving now?”
Just as I was about to grab the doorknob and run, Yoo Yeonha’s voice rang out.
I turned my head to the side and looked at her.
“…You knew I was here?”
“I suspected as much when I saw Chameleon Troupe members in the virtual world.”
“I had a good hunch as to what happened… Anyways, it was a nice healing trip for us.”
Yoo Yeonha stretched with a grin. I looked at her oddly.
“Yep. For me, I didn’t have to work for two months. As for Nayun….”
Yoo Yeonha paused and glanced behind her. No one had left the capsule room yet.
“She met her mother and older brother.”
“It’s all thanks to you.”
Yoo Yeonha spoke softly and placed her hand on my shoulder.
“You can go. Looks like the others will come out soon.”
Yoo Yeonha opened the door for me. I looked at her for a moment, then left.
Paris’s Mars Plaza filled my view. The festival in Paris wasn’t over, but there was only one thing I wanted to do right now.
I turned on my smartwatch and called Boss.
Boss picked up immediately. I calmed my heart before opening my mouth.
“…Boss, are you also in Paris?”
“Then wait for me. I’ll be right there.”
—Hm? Now? What—
I hung up then located Boss with Spartan.
She was eating fish cakes at a street stall.
I first ran to a flower shop and asked the owner if he had any evening primrose. The owner nodded his head and pointed to a flower bouquet. I quickly threw the owner money and left with the bouquet of yellow flowers.
Soon, I arrived at an alleyway filled with street stalls. I spotted Boss munching on fish cakes and called her with a bright smile.
Boss turned back and tilted her head curiously.
“W-What is it so suddenly?”
I stomped towards her and handed her the bouquet of flowers. Boss’s eyes widened and a question mark popped up above her head.
I shoved the bouquet into her arms. Boss furrowed her brows before nodding her head and looking at the flowers.
In that instant, her shoulders trembled faintly. I stared at her fixedly and muttered.
“They’re called the evening primrose. It’s a beautiful name, right?”
Boss looked up at me. Flustered, she blinked her eyes repeatedly. Looking at her, my body moved on its own.
I… pulled her into my embrace.
Our robes touched, and Boss’s forehead reached my chest. The flow of time slowed down, like Bullet Time activated on its own.
Boss stood frozen like a statue. I buried my face on her shoulder and whispered quietly.
“…I wanted to see you.”
[France – Paris]
The third round of the selections for the Gate of Glory proceeded without any problems. A total of a thousand people would be selected. Once the fourth and final round ended, two hundred people would be chosen among the thousand to enter the Demon Realm Gate.
“Farewell is soon.” Bell murmured on top of the Eiffel Tower.
“Yeah.” Jin Sahyuk replied, floating in the air next to him.
“Don’t let your personal feelings cloud your judgment. Don’t hesitate. Don’t miss the opportunity.”
This time, Jin Sahyuk didn’t reply to Bell. Normally, she would say something like, ‘I’ll kill you before you even have the chance to revive!’ …but now that the ‘end’ was truly in front of her, she was somewhat bitter and sad.
“Convince Rumi for me too.”
But Bell was calm and composed, just as always. He had no hesitation and no regrets.
Jin Sahyuk nodded her head silently.
“Good. Then I’ll see you next week.”
Tk, tk. Bell tapped on Jin Sahyuk’s shoulders a couple of times before turning into a gaseous state and disappearing.
The top of the Eifel Tower turned silent.
Left alone, Jin Sahyuk let out a deep sigh.
Soon, Baal would descend from the Demon Realm Gate.
She would be able to return to Akatrina.
Wasn’t that the ending she wanted?
So where is this bitterness coming from?
Unable to figure out the answer, Jin Sahyuk created a portal and left Paris.Previous Chapter Next Chapter